Overcrowded quarantine center in Jisr al-Shughur… How effective is it?
Enab Baladi – Rural Idlib
Within the framework of procedures taken by the medical body in north-western Syria to confront the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the health ministry of the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG), which controls Idlib province, has established a precautionary quarantine center in Jisr al-Shughur city.
Enab Baladi monitored through its correspondents and photographs of Jisr al-Shughur’s quarantine center, the overcrowding of its rooms with people put into quarantine.
Enab Baladi contacted the assistant minister of health of the SSG, Muhammad Assaf, to see the reality of the situation and discuss the effectiveness of quarantine in the Jisr al-Shughur center’s overcrowded rooms.
On his part, Assaf confirmed to Enab Baladi that most of the people in the center, which entered service on 10 of last April, are “healthy” and not carrying the coronavirus.
He added these people do not need special medical care, except for morning and evening checkups by the center’s doctor, with regard to the temperature and possible respiratory symptoms associated with the COVID-19.
According to Assaf, the center is currently providing Ramadan’s two meals, the pre-dawn meal (Suhur) and fast-breaking meal (Iftar), regular meals outside Ramadan, clean drinking water, some other drinks, and requirements.
The center is also educating people about the pandemic and its preventive methods, besides obliging them to wear protective masks and prohibiting the socialization between the residents of the center.
“The number looks relatively large,” according to Assaf, who attributed the reason to the “significant” numbers of people arriving at the center coming from the Syria-Turkey borders “illegally.”
Assaf indicated that the large number does not affect the success of quarantine as long as people are isolated in separate rooms according to a particular order based on the number of quarantine days. These people are not allowed to mingle with the neighboring rooms’ residents, according to Assaf.
“Healthy” people in quarantine
Medical isolation and quarantine… What is the difference?
Quarantine is a precautionary measure to prevent the coronavirus pandemic by isolating people who have come from places where the pandemic has spread and have not shown symptoms of the virus, for 14 days to make sure they are not infected.
Medical isolation is to isolate people confirmed to carry the virus in specialized centers, to avoid transmitting the infection to healthy people in society.
The massive numbers are preventing the completion of the quarantine period
According to Assaf, the quarantine lasts for 14 days, but it is currently difficult to complete this period due to the large numbers of incoming people; therefore, the quarantine lasts for the longest period possible, usually seven days or more.
He indicated that those currently under quarantine were held on the Turkish borders for at least two or three days before receiving them from the borders and then transferring them to the center.
The Jisr al-Shughur quarantine center can accommodate up to 200 beds, which “can be slightly increased if needed,” Assaf said.
According to Assaf, the center was expected to accommodate the incoming numbers well; nevertheless, the numbers were much more than expected.
This led to additional pressure and congestion and called for setting up a second center in Kafr Karmin town by the health ministry of the SSG, which is preparing a third center that Assaf did not specify its location.
Regarding the role of the SSG’s health ministry against the coronavirus pandemic, Assaf said the poor health situation in Jisr al-Shughur city, limited their work to focus mainly on prevention methods “as much as possible.”
These methods included isolating the arrivals by the Turkish borders and checking the temperature of people entering through the crossings from western Aleppo countryside areas. They also include isolating people suspected of being infected with the virus and transferring them to the nearest health center to assess their condition.
Assaf pointed out that there are special instructions for medical staff members if suspected symptoms for any of the people under quarantine appear. They must isolate those showing symptoms of the virus in a private room, take samples for examination, and then inform the ministry directly to continue carrying out the rest of the measures under its direct supervision.
Turkey has recorded 135,569 cases of coronavirus infection until the date of preparation of the present report; 86,396 have recovered, while 3,689 have died since the announcement of the first confirmed infection on 11 March.
In a previous report, Enab Baladi monitored the continuation of the “illegal” smuggling activity on the Turkey-Syria borders, through smugglers between the two countries. These smugglers were charging exorbitant fees for entering Syrians coming from Turkey far from the eyes of the Turkish border guards known as “Janderma” and amid lack of restrictions from the Syrian side.
Other isolation centers
Assaf told Enab Baladi there are some organizations, which he did not name, working on establishing community isolation centers.
He pointed out that about 29 centers are to be established in Idlib, specialized in isolating confirmed cases of coronavirus, many of them were set up, while some are still under construction.
Meanwhile, the health directorate in Idlib city announced that it is setting up two community isolation centers for people infected with COVID-19. The directorate published on its Facebook account on 7 May that the centers are established in collaboration with Doctors Without Borders organization and the Syrian Expatriate Medical Association (SEMA).
The first center is set up in the “Dakhiliya” (Internal Medicine specialty) Hospital in Idlib city with a capacity of 30 beds, while the second one is located in Kafr Takharim city and has 40 beds.
As for the health minister of the Syrian opposition’s Interim Government (SIG), Maram al-Sheikh, he published on his “Twitter” account that no cases of the novel coronavirus have been recorded in north-western Syrian so far. He added 332 cases were tested, all of which came “negative.”
Meanwhile, fears of a possible “catastrophe” prevail in the Syrian north in case of coronavirus spread in the region, given the difficulty of applying social distancing and the inability of the medical sector to absorb the pandemic effects.
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